Saturday, January 28, 2012

Quanser Helps High School Team Prepare for Robotics Competition

St. Robert Catholic High School in Markham, Ontario, Canada is entering as a “rookie” team in the 2012 FIRST Robotics Canada Competition – and Quanser is proud to be the school's sponsor. To get better acquainted with the students, we invited them, along with students from St. Brother Andre High School, to a kickoff meeting at Quanser's Markham headquarters in December of 2011.
Mark Breadner, Executive Director of FIRST Canada, sponsor of the FIRST Robotics Competition, gives the students an idea of the excitement and learning opportunities they'll experience as they take part in the competition. 

Students from St. Robert and also from St. Brother Andre High Schools in Markham, Canada attended this "get acquainted" session and had plenty of questions for our engineers during a Q &A session.

A student gets her hands on a tele-robotic system that relates to a wide range of real-world applications, including everything frorm handling nuclear waste disposal to performing remote surgery.

Getting their hands on a mobile robot as it performs a variety of tasks is valuable experience for students who'll be building their own robot in the 2012 FIRST Robotics Competition.

Once here, they jumped at the opportunity to control our robots, talk to real engineers as well as Mark Breadner, Executive Director of FIRST Robotics Canada, and feel the excitement that’s part of a life in engineering innovation.

View the video and experience it from the kids’ point of view!

Friday, January 27, 2012

From Russia With Love: Control Professors Impressed with LabVIEW-based Experiments

As part of our ongoing process of integrating Quanser products and curriculum with National Instruments (NI) products and software, I travelled to Russia in December to attend the Engineering, Scientific and Educational Applications Based on National Instruments Technologies Conference, where I was to meet the young and energetic NI Russia sales team.

It was the perfect opportunity to introduce them to our capabilities and show them how the Quanser/NI integration plans could help them better serve the Russian academic market. It was also an occasion for me to meet many Russian controls professors and introduce them to Quanser products and capabilities.
Delegates at the recent conference "Engineering, Scientific and Educational Applications Based on National Instruments Technologies" in Moscow, Russia had an opportunity to see live demos of integrated Quanser/NI systems.
As the title of this blog suggests, our visit was a huge success. The Quanser booth turned out to be one of the busiest, best attended ones at the conference, and our product demos and solutions created quite a bit of excitement.

QNETs are already available in Russia from NI. At the conference, we demonstrated the Quanser Driving Simulator and the Active Suspension workstation. These demos work seamlessly with NI's Compact Rio and LabVIEW, and come with LabVIEW-based course materials. These workstations are gaining a lot of interest at engineering labs around the world because they save educators precious time while enriching their students’ educational experience.
Quanser and NI product marketing material proves to be extremely popular
with the conference delegates.
When professors learned that Quanser had over 80 experiments for control labs, many of which easily integrate with NI products, they were very excited. When they found out that our future products would be built with NI integration in mind, they were even happier. Ultimately our integrated focus will enable NI to offer more choice and flexibility to the Russian academic market.

That’s of utmost importance. With more choice come more ways for universities to integrate their existing LabVIEW software and NI hardware with Quanser control experiments to offer students the most exciting and practical engineering education experience. This flexibility is particularly valuable where university budgets are constrained. Recruitment and retention of students is also a key focus.
Delegates took a hands-on approach to getting familiar with Quanser/NI systems.
The depth of Quanser experiments and course materials is an added benefit to the teaching community. Quanser experiments are designed to reflect real-world industrial applications and help graduate young engineers ready to be of value to their employers right away.

The NI Russia team is fully onboard with the exciting possibilities offered by the Quanser/NI partnership. Our NI colleagues are now in a better position to suggest how to best pair Quanser experiments with NI products to provide cost-effective solutions that meet Russian university teaching needs.

- Amirpasha Javid
Amirpasha Javid is an Applications Engineer at Quanser. He brings his past experience in developing Quanser controls systems and course materials to his current role of sharing his technical expertise with existing and new business relationships.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Spotlight's On Quanser In the Latest Issue of EEWeb - Pulse Magazine

EEWeb-Pulse magazine, a leading e-zine for the electrical engineering community, features not one but two stories about Quanser in its January 17, 2012 issue.

The first article, an interview with Tom Lee, focuses on Tom's role as Quanser's Chief Education Officer and on how Quanser's engaged, hands-on approach to engineering education is designed to serve "the overall mandate of the university, as well as the emerging influences and trends of global industry."

The second article, authored by Tom himself, is titled, "What's New at Quanser?" and outlines some of our latest activities and initiatives. To read both stories, click here.

A New Addition to Our Systems and Control Team

John Daly recently joined Quanser's engineering team as a Systems and Control Engineer. John brings a strong background in control systems theory to this position, as well as a wealth of experience with unmanned systems. He will be working on implementing advanced algorithms on tele-operated and fully autonomous unmanned systems, both airborne and grounded.

An area of particular interest to John and Quanser is the control of robotic manipulators.

John holds a PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Waterloo (2010). He earned a BEng in Computer Systems Engineering and a MASc in Electrical Engineering from Carleton University in Ottawa. Most of his graduate research work focused on controlling robotic manipulators, which is an area of particular interest at Quanser.

An affinity for math and science through his school years led John to take his first step towards an engineering career. But a summer spent at a science and computer camp run by engineering students at Carleton University really helped point the way. His decision to pursue that the engineering life soon followed. In his spare time John enjoys cooking, camping and skiing. Welcome to Quanser, John!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Two Sides of Korea

No, this is not a commentary on the political situation in Korea, but an account of a series of events that transpired over a scant three months involving an intriguing combination of international meetings in China, Korea and Canada... yes, it still does sound like a political tale, doesn't it?

In October of 2011, Quanser CEO Paul Gilbert and I attended the Global Colloquium on Engineering Education in Shanghai. There, we, by chance, met with Professor Wonjong Joo of Seoul National University of Science and Technology (affectionately referred to as SeoulTech). Through various chats and coffee breaks, we discovered that he ws the director of a "Hub Center" in a national inititative called the Innovation Centers for Engineering Education (ICEE). This is a well-funded government initiative that identified 60 leading engineering universities in Korea and encouraged them to research and establish innovative practices to transform the engineering curriculum to better meet the needs of the roaring Korean industrial sector of the 21st century.

South Korea has earned the reputation of a "miracle" economy. Within a single generation, the nation innovated itself up from theashes of two brutal wars and foreign occupation. Since the 1960's when the basic infrasturcture stabilized, the average annual income climbed from $100 to the current $20,000 - from the extreme end of "third world" existence to one of the most respected and dynamic economies of today. To continue its progress, the country has concluded that it needed a community of modern engineers who not only escelled technically but were also innovative and global in their worldview. Indeed, mega-companies such as Samsung strongly expressed a desire to close the gap between the skill sets of engineering graduates with the needs of conttemporary Korean industry. ICEE was born out of these needs.

Side one of this tale was an invitation by Dr.Joo to me to speak at a conference of Korean engineering educators representing the network of ICEE institutions. This was held in early December of 2011 on the famous Jeju Island off the southern tip of Korea. This island has a very special place in the hearts of the people of the country. Volcanic in origin, it offers a startling comination of natural beauty and cultural uniqueness even within a larger context of the Korean nation which generally prides itself on its cutural uniqueness. In all, it was a very stimulating and collegial environment to engage in healthy discussions on pedagogy.

Professor Joo and I pose atop Seongsan volcanic peak, a landmark on Jeju Island

What I learned from my new friends was enlightening and heartening. The discussion were dominated by ideas and case studies on increasing the relevance and experiential dimensions in modern engineering education. Hands-on, application-driven, collaborative, immersive and interactive were the kind of words that framed all of the discussions. for a country whose traditional education paradigms enforced intensive absorption oand uncompromising discipline, this was indeed refreshing. Over the years my own views on education have generally challenged the traditional linearity of the North American curriculum; certainly ths success of the Quanser business is founded on this modern perspective as well.

Leaving my mark on the rugged beaches of Jeju

Side two of this tale occurs on the other side of the world. In addition to the generous invitation that I received to address the Korean conference, I also received a request  from Professor Joo for help in facilitating a visit to Canada to learn more about how education innovation happens here. The fun part about this visit, as I quickly learned, was that the visit would not be one or two professors but a delegation of 23 people representing 11 institutions. Somehow we had to engineer an itinerary that combined visits to leading Canadian universities and industry... and this had to happen during a very short visit duration of two days. In the end we settled on a visit to York University, currently in the process of increasing its undergraduate engineering program from 500 to 2000 students; the University of Waterloo, arguably Canada's most successful engineering program; and a visit to our own headquarters to gain insight into progressive Canadian industry.

The delegation at the University of Waterloo's Student Design Center

With both universities, we received a rich and engaging series of sessions covering a vast range of education topics with respectively unique views from the two institutions. Waterloo has a 60 year history of doing the unconventional. From building the world's largest co-op program, to introducing new interdisciplinary programs at a blistering pace, to methodically expanding its positive influence through community outreach programs, it has set the standard for academic engineering innovation. York, being the rising star within the Canadian engineering scene, draws from its global reputation as a center for fundamental sciences, humanities and business and has attempted to redefine what the modern engineer should be.

Quanser curriculum developer Peter Martin demonstrates a new application concept for control systems labs

Yes, the modern engineer should be technically proficient, but she must also be interdisciplinary in thinking, entrepreneurial in ambition, creative in methodology, and global in attitude. At Quanser, the delegation had an opportunity to see and feel first hand some of the latest technology trends that, we believe, will transform the way universities deliver essential engineering experiences to students.

For me as a Korean-born Canadian, this was an amazing chance to experience the Korean academic community in the home country and in my adopted country. I felt privileged that the two sides of my heritage converged on the key context of education, a context that has been so important to me for many years. And in the end, I'm happy to report that, as the cliche goes, there seems to be more that draws us together than keeps us apart.

- Dr. Tom Lee

As Chief Education Officer at Quanser, Tom Lee is focused on spearheading the development of Quanser's global academic community. He is closely involved with Quanser's technology and solution development process and the company's partner and alliance programs. He holds a PhD in Mechanical Engineering, and an MASc and BASc in Systems Design Engineering from the University of Waterloo.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Quanser to Host Korean Academic Delegates Researching Best Practices in Engineering Education

Quanser will host a delegation of faculty members representing the Innovation Centers for Engineering Education (ICEE) Korea on Wednesday, January 4th.

The purpose of the Korean delegation's trip is to gain insight into best practices in engineering education in Canada, then adopt key practices to improve the quality and quantity of engineering graduates in their country. The itinerary includes visits to the engineering departments at the University of Waterloo and York University. Quanser will be their only industry visit.

"We're deeply honoured to be the only industry stop on the ICEE Korea itinerary," says Paul Gilbert, Quanser CEO. "As a company focused on educating the next generation of engineering innovators, we're keen to share our experience in enabling the kind of captivating laboratory teaching that not only brings engineering concepts to life, but motivates students to graduate and seek new solutions to engineering challenges."

Quanser's dedication to pace-setting education solutions was recently recognized when it was named "most innovative company" in Markham, one of Canada's leading high tech business zones.

The Korean delegation will tour Quanser headquarters, meet key staff and learn how Quanser educational solutions are assisting over 2000 universities worldwide to attract, motivate and graduate engineering students. The half day event will include demonstrations of popular and innovative engineering lab experiments, including a tele-operation robotic device.